Workshop 9

Jorge Luis Borges: Poems of the Night (2010)

Week 10:

Workshop 9

Group 2: Peer Reviews.
Group 2: poems returned, with corrections and provisional grades.
Distribute Group 3 poems.

Poetry Exercise 4: "Every word is a dead metaphor"
(Leopoldo Lugones)

According to Jorge Luis Borges, traditional Chinese poets called the world "the ten thousand things." He goes on to speculate:
if we accept the number ten thousand, and if we think that all metaphors are made by linking two different things together, then, had we time enough, we might work out an almost unimaginable sum of possible metaphors. I have forgotten my algebra, but I think the sum should be 10,000 multiplied by 9,999, multiplied by 9,998, and so on.
- J. L. Borges, This Craft of Verse (2000): 21-22.
That's a lot of metaphors. Our exercise today is to add to their number:
  • Write down a list of things you've seen today, as a series of brief nouns or noun phrases without commentary: "the face of my phone / a plate of breakfast / my steering wheel / snarled-up traffic / the coffee cart").
  • Keep going till you have (at least) fourteen such items.
  • Write a set of brief, factual descriptions of the things of the day so far: "The sky is overcast / the rain falls vertically / my friend is frowning.”
  • Keep going till you have another fourteen (or more).
  • Match first to last: "the face of my phone is frowning / my plate of breakfast falls vertically / the steering wheel is overcast.”
  • Play with the results some more - cutting and pruning - until you have a set of lines you think convey something of the character of your morning.

Next week:

  • Group 4: Workshop Poems Due. Bring enough copies for the whole class
  • Group 3: Peer Reviews

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